I first saw the red #35 WRX STI at the Miami-Homestead track for the GRAND-AM KONI Sports Car Challenge in 2009. Subaru Road Racing Team brought it along to gauge reaction to it. At that time, the team was fielding the #111 Legacy 2.5GT in ST class. I remember being excited that the car was red, and I recall hearing the exhaust note as it was passing through the paddock. I was crossing the roof of one of the paddock buildings at the time.
Next, #35 competed in a World Challenge event at Sebring. That gave me a chance to see and photograph the car at a venue I had never visited before. The World Challenge race was a support event for the 12 Hours of Sebring endurance race. The bright red car stood out among the other entries, especially at the standing starts. It rifled past the front-wheel drive cars into contention. The team experienced the same enthralling start at the World Challenge event at New Jersey Motorsports Park later in the year.
Subaru Road Racing Team tested #35 (with #111 on its side) at VIRginia International Raceway at the end of the 2009 KONI Sports Car Challenge season. The team timed the car within a couple of seconds of the fastest GS entry that weekend. The red car only ran on the practice day.
Then, at Daytona International Speedway for the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge in January 2010, #35 debuted as a full contender in the GS class. You can follow its progress throughout the season in this Editor's Track blog.
The team's season was up and down -- one full of development issues. These included cooling, turbocharger, brakes, and center differential. Unfortunately, rain didn't help the team at all.
As with most competitively driven race cars, #35 had its share of banged-up sheet metal, broken parts, engine difficulties, and off-track excursions. The most dramatic was at Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Alabama, where another car turned #35 (Andrew Aquilante driving) sideways entering a right-hand turn at the top of a hill. #35 bounced sideways through the grass, with onlookers expecting it to roll. But it didn't. It kept on going, although at a loss of a few positions.
Testing it with the GRAND-AM series at Homestead-Miami Speedway takes place this week. Watch for its debut in the first GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race at Daytona International Speedway at the end of January 2011!
-- Ric Hawthorne